Emotions High on Eve of American Sniper Trial

Lawyers for Eddie Ray Routh, accused killer of Chris Kyle, wanted change of venue
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 10, 2015 4:42 PM CST
Emotions High on Eve of American Sniper Trial
In this April 6, 2012, file photo, Chris Kyle, a former Navy SEAL and author of the book "American Sniper," poses in Midlothian, Texas.   (AP Photo/The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, Paul Moseley, File)

While Hollywood celebrities debate the politics underlying American Sniper, new drama is set to unfold in Stephenville, Texas. The trial of 27-year-old Eddie Ray Routh, accused of murdering Navy SEAL Chris Kyle (on whom the movie was based) and friend Chad Littlefield at a shooting range in 2013, will begin there tomorrow. Residents are bracing for more publicity amid the conversation of what caused one veteran to kill another—and whether Routh will be able to get a fair trial, the New York Times reports. "We've never had anything like this in this town," says the owner of a bar across from the courthouse. With the movie out and the trial set to begin, everybody's talking about the case, which is part of why Routh's lawyers contend there's no way he'll get a fair shake.

In a denied request to move the trial out of Erath County, they pointed to the movie's popularity (many locals receiving jury summonses had seen it, the Times notes), a pre-jury-selection bomb threat, and Kyle's hero status in the area as proof that Routh won't find a sympathetic ear. Routh, a Marine veteran who reportedly told authorities before the shootings that he had post-traumatic stress disorder, has pleaded not guilty, and attorneys have indicated they'll use an insanity defense. But a CBS News legal analyst thinks Routh's changed appearance since his arrest—he's put on some weight and wears glasses—won't help that case. He looked "crazy" at the time of the shooting, says Rikki Klieman. "What he looks like today is a reasonable person." (More American Sniper stories.)

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